Parents outraged by Houston County test score policy

Some Houston County high school students’ grade-point averages are plunging because of a new test policy.

The exam, known as the Student Learning Objective test, is state mandated, and some school systems have been using it for a while. Other systems, such as Houston County, are giving the test for the first time this year, and the results are counting 20 percent toward a student’s final grade.

School systems aren’t required to use the test results toward the computation of a grade. Houston County does, though, and as the end of school approaches, some parents there are up in arms, saying they and their children were blindsided by the policy -- and its consequences.

In recent days, parents have flooded social media sites with vitriol upon learning their child’s final grades, and an online petition to disregard the SLO scores has garnered more than 1,500 signatures.

The test results are “dropping GPA’s and prohibiting students to graduate,” the petition states. “The criteria on the SLO’s have not been taught to any students, which has been dropping averages 8-10 points. Students that have maintained certain averages all year have had that stripped away from them because the information on the SLO’s doesn’t match the standards which teachers have been following.”

Melanie Hofmann said her daughter, Katherine, took the test at Warner Robins High School recently and was upset because she didn’t know some of the material.

“A lot of the math that was on the test had not been covered in class,” she said her daughter told her. “How are we supposed to pass these tests?”

The SLO test is a part of the Georgia Department of Education’s Teacher Keys Effectiveness System, which is meant to measure both students’ academic growth and teachers’ impact in “non-tested” subjects.

According to the state DOE, about 75 percent of all teachers teach “non-tested subjects” for at least a portion of the school day. SLO tests cover subject areas that are not part of the Georgia Milestones test.

“We’re mandated to give a pre-SLO and post-SLO test,” said Beth McLaughlin, Houston’s community and school relations director. The post-SLO test is the one that is graded and is “based on the standards that the state gives” for each class.

“We are weighing it at 20 percent, which is the same weight” as the former End of Course Test, McLaughlin said.

The pre-test, given to students at the beginning of the year, and post-test, given at the end of the year, are the same test, so it can measure how far students have progressed. The SLO scores are tied to schools’ College and Career Readiness Performance Index in addition to the TKES.

However, “The decision to count SLO tests as 20 percent of the grade is a local one,” said Meghan Frick, a Georgia DOE communications specialist. “Georgia DOE does not require districts to use SLOs as 20 percent (or any percentage) of the grade.”

McLaughlin said Superintendent Mark Scott was “declining to do interviews” regarding the parents’ complaints, and concerned parents were being referred to their child’s school principal.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.